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Faith and Health: Religion, Science, and Public Policy.

Faith and Health: Religion, Science, and Public Policy. By Paul D. Simmons. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2008. 293 pp. $30.00 paper.

Paul Simmons has written a forceful series of essays on the intersection of religion, morality, medicine, and health policy. Simmons tackles the standard topics of abortion, euthanasia, and stem-cell research, but he also includes chapters on artificial hearts and cyborgs, the ethics of composite tissue allotransplants, and the demonic and medicine. Regrettably, his analysis is overwhelmed by the vitriolic attacks he deploys against his adversaries.

Simmons's commitment to self-autonomy fuels the ethical stances he takes, whether on end-of-life decisions, euthanasia, or abortion. "My commitment is to the belief that each person has equal access to God, thus making each person an authority unto his or her self in matters of conscience or belief. Personal autonomy, not heteronomy, wins out in human rights" (125). Furthermore, medicine is centrally committed to self-autonomy. What the patient wants, whether suicide with the assistance of a physician in the face of the loss of desire to live or abortion in the face of hard circumstances, is fight and good. Those who would attempt to question or restrict such autonomy are authoritarians who seek to impose their morality on others, something the First Amendment prohibits if that morality has a religious grounding, seemingly other than Simmons's own. Unfortunately, Simmons fails to interact meaningfully with opponents, preferring to depict them (particularly evangelicals) as theocrats governed by a crusader ethic who should be assessed alongside and in light of the Spanish Inquisition, the Iranian Ayatollah, al-Qaeda under Osama bin Laden, Jim Jones, David Koresh, the Salem Puritans, Nazi Germany, and more. Historians of religion seeking a good study of medical ethics should look elsewhere.

Jonathan R. Baer

Wabash College

doi: 10.1017/S0009640711001739
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Author:Baer, Jonathan R.
Publication:Church History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2011
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